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Translation and Localization Alumni: Where Are They Now?

Marisa Hart
Marisa Hart stands above a city were she served an LDS mission in Fortaleza, Brazil. Hart, like many other BYU graduates, has a love for language, and transformed that love into marketable skills that she learned in the translation and localization program.

Most students have no idea what to expect when they hear “translation and localization,” let alone the numerous career options that are available for those who follow this relatively new minor.

According to a recent BYU Humanities article, “localization is the process of addressing linguistic, cultural, and non-textual pieces of a medium and adapting it to fit within the culture and language constraints.”

“Translation and localization make programming and digital communication in other languages possible. It allows people from all over the world to play a video game or read a movie poster that was produced in a different language, and still have the user experience that someone across the world would have,” the website continues.

Even though the translation and localization minor is only five years old, BYU alumni are already making a splash in this rapidly-growing industry.

Calvin Westfall

Calvin Westfall

Calvin Westfall graduated from BYU in August 2020 and double-majored in Spanish translation and European studies. He is currently completing a master's program. Though he did not graduate with a minor in translation and localization, Westfall acts as the president of the translation and localization club on campus.

When he is not working on his master’s degree or running the club, Westfall also works as a student instructor for a 100-level Spanish class and as a freelance translator and interpreter.

“When I tell people [that I translate], they're like, ‘Oh, so you just know how to use Google Translate,’ [but] it's so much more than that.”

Westfall has been club president for three years and he believes that the translation and localization club is a wonderful opportunity for people to learn more about the minor and get involved.

“We're basically like a volunteer translation company, and we have [about] 50 volunteers working on different projects here on campus and on some international projects as well.”

Kekoa Riggin

Kekoa Riggin

Kekoa Riggin graduated from BYU in 2016. He majored in Spanish translation and minored in translation and localization. Riggin was the first student at BYU to graduate with the minor.

“With more time in the translation program, it became clear to me that technology was a huge part of translation, even the way that I saw it was that it was actually a bigger part of translation than translation itself,” Riggin said.

Riggin recalls being told in his major that he would have to use technology in his field, but he did not have the direction from his classes in the Spanish translation major on how to apply the technology. That disconnect was what led him to the classes in the translation and localization minor.

“I was told all the time that I'd have to know how to use the software, I'd have to know how to rely on things like translation memories,” said Riggin.

Taking the classes for the minor provided an important shift for Riggin and his career.

“It was a moment where I was kind of humbled by my ability as a translator. I loved what I was studying, and I didn't want to change [what I was] studying, but I realized that I probably wasn't as good as the technology is, and that's where a big shift happened for me where I said, ‘instead of trying to compete with this technology, I want to try to use the technology’ and that's [when] leaned hard into localization.”

Despite his translation background, Riggin currently works as a software engineer for Domo in American Fork.

“I'm a software engineer in globalization, so we handle all of the multilingual functionality of our product, not just translation but we. . . participate in the development of multilingual functionality.”

Riggin stated that localization gives people the chance to experience different fields and explore the options in the workforce.

“I feel like the minor is kind of a nice middle road between the language side and the business or technical [sides].”

Joelma Yangali

Joelma Yangali

Joelma Yangali graduated from BYU in 2016 with a major in Spanish translation and a minor in business.

Yangali graduated the semester before the translation and localization minor became an official minor, but she took almost all of the classes of the minor before graduating, giving her a very solid foundation to work in the localization field.

After growing up speaking both Spanish and English, Yangali’s passion for language was sparked at a young age and stayed with her as she started college.

“I started taking a couple [general education] courses and I realized that I really enjoyed Latin American literature, Spanish literature. I thought it was beautiful. It just had so many different layers of complexity. . . Having to struggle or having to look up words, like ‘Okay, what does that word mean?’ from now getting the context and the extra added layer from your professors in the discussion, it gave me a bigger sense of appreciation for my own language,” Yangali said.

Yangali currently works for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the translation division as an operations manager for Asia and Asia North.

Though Yangali does not speak an Asian language, she is able to work with people from all over the world because of her education in college.

“I never thought I would be working with languages that I don't personally have too much experience in,” Yangali said. “But the one thing that does help: you're able to empathize with people because of different experiences and you also are aware of different cultural differences.”

Yangali believes that the classes in the translation and localization minor are helpful because they provide exposure to the localization industry and to the technology that is used in the field.

Camila Costa

Camila Costa

Camila Costa graduated from BYU in April 2020 with a major in linguistics and a minor in translational and localization.

Costa began her college experience as a music major, but as a native Spanish speaker from Argentina, she was interested in turning her language experience into a marketable skill.

“One of the linguistics classes was a career explorations class, and in that class, the president of the translation and localization club, [Calvin Westfall] came to . . . present the club, and the minor. It really stood out to me,” Costa said. “I went to their club meetings to learn more about it because it sounded like it might be a good fit for me and . . . I liked all the opportunities for networking in the club, so I just became really active in it, to the point where I was Calvin's vice president.”

Her involvement in the club and the minor led to an internship with a translation company in Orem, and later, to her current job as a translation manager with ICON, a pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device developer.

Costa, like most students, did not realize how many jobs like hers are out there until she got involved with the minor, and she believes that skills like translation management will be only go up in demand.

“Internationalization is so big right now, and the world is becoming more and more global. Companies need translation teams and people who understand how to localize materials so that it's more marketable,” Costa said.

Costa stated that she has “so much gratitude for the [translation and localization] minor.”

“I can't stress it enough. When I switched majors, I was so worried. I was like, ‘what the heck am I [going to] do? I only have like a year to graduate and I still have no idea.' But the minor was just so awesome,” Costa said. “The faculty was amazing [and] they're all just open and helpful because they know it's such a new thing that so many people don't know about so they're just so open with just sitting down with you.”

Brent Summers

Brent Summers

Brent Summers graduated from BYU in 2017 with a major in Spanish translation, a minor in translation and localization, and a minor in global business and literacy.

After completing his schooling at BYU, Summers decided to study at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, where he did a master's degree in translation and localization management. The school is known for its extensive training in language and has a 96% success rate of graduates who get jobs within one year of graduation.

After finishing his master’s degree in April 2018, Summers moved to San Francisco, California and currently works for Cricut.

“I was brought on to help lead the international growth efforts, specifically when it comes to localization as the company. Cricut is a very North American country and has been forever, but the largest growth sector in the company has been international for several years,” Summers said.

Because of all of the international growth, Summers has the opportunity to work with people from all over the world on a regular basis.

“I handle the translation work for all aspects of the company, so I'm generally in meetings with our marketing teams, some of which are here in the U.S. but mostly our European marketing teams, which are in France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, pretty much everywhere there, so I try to be involved with them as much as possible,” Summers said.

Summers believes that his background in translation and localization has added to his credibility in business settings. He explained this with the following anecdote.

“I had to present [a new translation platform] to the whole executive team, [and] I had to go over the budget. I had to negotiate the contracts and everything with them, but when it came down to the decision time I was like, ‘I need this [software] for these reasons,’ and this guy was on the final call as well to get approval with the CFO and he's like, ‘I've looked at the software that he's proposing right now, and it's going to work exactly how I need to interface with [my software], because I've done this in a previous company before, and it's good for me.’ Pretty much with his thumbs up, it was just a done deal, it kind of didn't matter how much it was going to cost because we'd already gone over that.”

Marisa Hart

Marisa Hart

Marisa Hart graduated from BYU in 2018 with a major in Portuguese and a minor in translation and localization. She first heard about the minor in her career exploration class and her exposure to the minor led to her internship with Lingotek, a company that specializes in digital content localization.

After graduation, Hart took a job at Lingotek as a project manager.

Hart focuses more on the organizational aspects of translation, from finding the right translators for certain projects, to making sure projects get done on time. One aspect of her job that Hart enjoys is the opportunity “to work with people all over the world.”

“The localization and translation field is like the biggest industry that no one knows anything about,” Hart said. “All the time when I tell people what I do, they're like, ‘I have never heard of that in my life,’ but it makes sense that there's a job like that because if you look at any website or any anything, it's translated into a ton of languages, so someone has to be doing all that work behind it.”

Hart stated that the translation and localization minor helped “pave the way” for her career, and it helped her understand the world of translation.

Hart also highlighted the nuances in language that exist between people that speak the same language in different parts of the world. For example, the people in northern and southern Brazil speak differently, from the words and grammar they use to the way that they pronounce words. Localization helps people of all regions and dialects to feel represented on the internet.

“A lot of people feel like, ‘Oh, even if [a website] was translated, this isn't for us. We can tell it wasn't written by people that know our culture.’ That is a huge thing we have to think about. Sometimes, we don't want to find someone who's just going to translate word for word. We need someone that really understands that [specific] culture,” Hart said.

Caleb Thompson

Caleb Thompson graduated from BYU in December 2020 with a major in Spanish and a minor in translation and localization.

“I've always had an interest in other cultures and languages. I think that was always a central part of what I wanted to do,” Thompson said.

After looking into some options and hearing about the translation and localization club in his Introduction to Translation class, Thompson decided to try his luck with a new field of study.

“Sophomore year, I did an on-campus internship through the minor. That . . . really opened my eyes. It was through a local tech company, and they do have some localization efforts, but I felt like there was a lack of their desire to really cater to the different cultures,” Thompson said.

His internship piqued his interest in the localization field and led him to where he is now: a project manager for Latinligua, an Argentina-based country that works to connect people through language.

“I think a lot of students have a desire to work with different languages and cultures. As a student, . . . I had the mindset of, ‘Okay, you've got international business over here and translation over here. If I want to do Spanish, then maybe it's something like being a professor.”

Thompson hopes that students can learn that there is so much more that they can do with their language skills than they even realize.

“The reality is, in this modern age, there's business being [done] between lots of different companies and lots of different languages and cultures. That opens up the door of opportunity for so many things, and there's a lot of opportunity out there,” Thompson said.

Thompson stated that despite the pandemic, “there's a lot of room for growth in the industry. [It] is currently booming right now.”

To learn more about the Translation and Localization Minor, click here.